2013 American League Preview: Minnesota Twins

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Let's Go Tribe's look at the Indians' competition around the American League continues with the Minnesota Twins, who were kind enough to lose even more games than the Tribe last season.

Minnesota Twins

2012 Record: 66-96 (5th in A.L. Central), 12-6 vs. Cleveland

701 runs scored (10th of 14 in A.L.), 832 runs allowed (13th of 14 in A.L.)

After winning back-to-back A.L. Central crowns in 2009 and 2010, Minnesota finished with the worst record in the American League in 2011 and looked to rebound in 2012. They didn't rebound. By the middle of May the Twins were 10-26, ten games out of 1st place (behind the Indians!). In some vague way, the season improved (they didn't finish with a .278 winning percentage, after all), but it never REALLY got any better than that. They finished with the worst record in the A.L. for the second straight year after not having finished last in the division since 2000.

2012 good news:

Joe Mauer played 147 games, had a 141 OPS+, led the league in on-base percentage, and appeared in a Head & Shoulders commercial that I saw approximately 472 times.

Justin Morneau played in 134 games and was a solid hitter, his strongest performance since the severe concussion he received three years ago.

Josh Willingham turned out to be one of the best free agent signings in recent history, putting up an OPS+ of 144 and leading the team in HR, R, RBI, and slugging percentage. His 35 home runs were (believe it or not) the most by a Twin since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970.

Denard Span was a solid hitter and played great defense.

Ben Revere stole 40 bases, the most by a Twin since Chuck Knoblauch in 1997.

Their ballpark is pretty.

2012 bad news:

Joe Mauer only started 72 games at catcher. His offense is great, but he's still going to have a hard time being worth the $23 million a year the Twins are paying him if he loses the value that comes from handling the backstop position.

Morneau's health is great to see (head injuries are the worst), but he was nothing like the hitter he used to be and it seems unlikely THAT player is ever coming back.

Willingham is due for some regression to the mean.

Denard Span is gone.

So is Ben Revere.

There weren't as many fans at that pretty ballpark as there were in 2011.

The starting rotation... Pretty much everything about their starting rotation last season falls into the category of "bad news."

Key off-season additions:

Vance Worley (SP), Kevin Correia (SP), Mike Pelfrey (SP)

Key off-season departures:

Scott Baker (SP), Matt Capps (RP), Ben Revere (OF), Denard Span (OF)

2013 Payroll: ~$80 million

Projected 2013 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Joe Mauer

4

1B

Justin Morneau

2

2B

Brian Dozier

1

3B

Trevor Plouffe

1

SS

Pedro Florimon

1

LF

Josh Willingham

3

CF

Aaron Hicks

2

RF

Chris Parmelee

1

DH

Ryan Doumit

1

TOTAL

16

Indian Killers:

Trevor Plouffe - 78 PA, .284/.359/.582, .941 OPS, 5 HR, 12 R, 11 RBI

Plouffe has only played long enough to collect 50+ PA against six different teams, but of those teams, he's done best against the Tribe. His best OPS against any other A.L. Central for is just .753 and his overall OPS is only .718. The law of averages say his tyranny over Cleveland ends in 2013.

Joe Mauer - 449 PA, .339/.423/.452, .876 OPS, 7 HR, 62 R, 51 RBI

Unlike Plouffe, who's numbers have spiked against the Tribe, these figures are Mauer are only a little better than his career norms. Still, that .423 OBP is the best among the 49 active players who've played in at least 40 games against the Indians.

Projected 2013 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Vance Worley

2

2

Scott Diamond

2

3

Kevin Correia

0

4

Mike Pelfrey

1

5

Liam Hendriks

0

RP

Bullpen

1

TOTAL

6

Team Projections:

PECOTA: 64-98 (5th in Central), 707 runs scored, 892 runs allowed

Cairo: 66-96 (5th in Central), 694 runs scored, 837 runs allowed

2013 outlook:

The Twins will have to decide how much they're willing to play Joe Mauer at catcher, and how often they want him at 1B or in the DH spot. If he's only got so many games behind the plate before he starts to break down, it probably makes sense to limit his time there in 2013, in hopes that he's still a good hitter in 2015, which is the soonest Minnesota has much chance of contending. The loss of Span and Revere will hurt Minnesota's already weak offense too, an offense that appears to have only three even league average bats (Mauer, Morneau, Willingham).

Span and Revere's absence will have an even bigger impact in the field, where Span is one of the best. The Twins haven't been able to develop or acquire good starting pitchers recently, only Scott Baker has had multiple strong years for them over the last five or six seasons (and he's a Cub now, after missing all of 2012). Combining a weakened defense with what looks to be among the worst pitching staffs in the league may lead to more runs allowed than any other team in baseball, even Colorado.

Minnesota has put together one of the strong farm systems in baseball recently, and has a lot of good looking offensive players in the pipeline, led by Miguel Sano (3B), Byron Buxton (OF), and Oswaldo Arcia (OF). None of them are likely to arrive in 2013 though. Aaron Hicks, another outfield prospect, could be up this summer, but he looks to be more of a solid player than star. The pitching side of the Twins' minor league system isn't nearly as strong, and no one there looks ready to be a strong contributor, so they're likely stuck with the very mediocre bunch they've got.

Minnesota looks to be headed for another last place finish in the Central. If Houston improves at all, Minnesota could also finish with the worst record in the American League for the third straight time. That's something no team has done since division play began in 1970. Avoiding that fate would be a reasonable goal for the Twins. If they want to aim high, they should set their sights on 4th place in the Central.

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